What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins compared to healthy veins.

According to the American Heart Association, varicose veins affect 22 million women and 11 million men between 40 and 80 years old. But just what causes this painful, unattractive problem? And more importantly, what can you do about it? We get lots of questions like these at the Vein Clinic of Greater Kansas City. So we will fill you in on causes and treatments and hopefully answer some of your most burning (no pun intended) questions.

What Are Varicose Veins?

When your heart beats, the arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to all of your organs and extremities (hands & feet) to keep them functioning properly. Veins carry all the (used) blood back to the heart to be oxygenated again. It does this by using  one-way valves in the veins that only allow the blood to flow back toward the heart. When the valves become weakened or damaged, blood can collect in the veins causing them to become enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood. This usually occurs in the lower legs. Because the veins there are the farthest from your heart, gravity makes it harder for the blood to flow upward. They can be seen through the skin and appear as ropey, bulging, bluish veins.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure in the veins. This pressure puts stress on the valves in the veins that carry the blood back to the heart. As pressure builds, the valves can fail causing the blood to pool in the veins, stretching them and causing them to bulge. Causes can be inherited or situational. Here are some potential causes for varicose veins:


Having a family history of varicose veins is, by far, the single biggest risk factor. According to some studies, almost half of all the people suffering from varicose veins have a vein condition in their family history. If one of your parents had varicose veins, you are likely to inherit the disorder. If both parents had it, chances are very high that you will suffer from it too.


Excess weight puts extra pressure on the leg veins and their valves. This makes it harder to pump blood against gravity back to the heart and makes developing varicose veins much more likely.

Hormonal Changes

Both pregnancy and menopause can increase your risk for developing varicose veins. Progesterone can have a significant impact on overall vein health and the formation of varicose veins. Pregnancy can be a double whammy with both hormones and weight gain working against you.


The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Those over the age of 50 are at greatest risk. As the body ages, wear and tear on the valves in your veins can cause them to weaken and allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart.


If you have a job that requires you to stand for long periods of time, this could increase varicose vein development and exacerbate existing symptoms.

Treatments for Varicose Veins

There are many treatments for varicose veins at the Vein Clinic of Greater Kansas City. Our team of vein experts, led by Dr. Craig D. Barbieri, can help you decide which type is right for you. The good news is that they are all minimally invasive. Here is an overview:

Compression Stockings

Compression garments, such as custom-fit stockings, are used as a conservative preventive measure to increase blood flow and reduce pain and swelling.

Radio Frequency Endovenous Ablation

Uses radio frequency to heat the vein wall to shrink, collapse, and seal it and it is eventually absorbed by the body.


A concentrated solution is injected into the vein and absorbed by the body over several weeks.


This is a mix of polidocanol, nitrogen, and oxygen injected into the vein usually used to treat larger or deeper veins that we are not able to use catheter ablation or phlebectomy to treat.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy

For bulging surface veins, after the skin is numb, very small punctures are made and the vein is removed. No stitches are needed, and downtime is minimal.

See our blog for more detailed information about varicose vein treatments. You don’t have to live with the embarrassment or the pain. Come see us at the Vein Clinic of Greater Kansas City. Give us a call at (913) 541-3377 in Overland Park or (816) 792-1188 in Liberty or schedule an appointment online.